The Sheffield City Region has announced plans to create a network of more than 620 miles of accessible walking and cycling routes across South Yorkshire to enable people to leave their cars at home.
The plan sets out how, by 2040, South Yorkshire will have a fully connected network of walking and cycling routes.
The network will feature 800 safe crossings for people travelling on foot or by bike, and nearly 200 square miles of low traffic neighbourhoods, which will see streets become safer with very little through traffic.
£166 million has already been secured from the Transforming Cities Fund, with half allocated for active travel, but more investment is required from the Government to make the plan a reality.
“Active travel has always been at the heart of my transport vision for South Yorkshire,” said Mayor Dan Jarvis. “The benefits walking and cycling bring to all aspects of our lives are great and I am proud of how quickly we have developed this plan alongside to our local authorities. Active travel is good for our health, good for the planet and good for the economy.”
In South Yorkshire, around 40% of journeys to work which are 1km or less are currently driven in a car, with this figure rising to 64% for 5km journeys. Just 2% of work commutes are taken by bike and 10% on foot in the region, with more than 70% of people commuting by car.
“We are in the midst of one of the largest public health crisis in a generation and as we recover from coronavirus, we have an opportunity to change,” Jarvis continued. “No one wants to return to gridlocked roads and polluted town centres, and this landmark strategy sets out how we can build back better. The aim should not be to go back to the status quo, it should be to make this a moment of fundamental change for our region and our country.”
By enabling active travel, it is forecasted that cycling could be increased by a substantial 350%, by 2040. Local people have shared their experiences of walking and cycling through the Sheffield City Region’s Interactive Map launched in October 2019, which has seen more than 4,000 comments.
The 2040 Network plans encapsulate 88% of these comments, and will include: improving walking routes into Barnsley town centre and to the hospital, providing better active travel routes to all rail stations and town centres in the Dearne Valley, a high-quality segregated cycle route along the A6178 to connect Rotherham, Meadowhall and Sheffield, and a bridge connecting Doncaster’s iPort with Rossington.
Jarvis added: “Active travel should be part of an even wider strategy – a green new deal to transform our economy, create millions of new jobs, and counter the economic damage the pandemic has caused. I am pleased that the Government is allocating emergency funds to enable us to make space for pedestrians and cyclists in the age of social distancing, but this money must be released promptly.
“In the short term, we need to take the pressure off a stretched public transport system which is running at a fraction of its normal capacity, and prevent the gridlock which will be caused by people turning to their car. In the long term, we need sustained funding for active travel to enable us to deliver a green new deal for South Yorkshire.”
Active Travel Commissioner for Sheffield City Region, Dame Sarah Storey, echoed Jarvis’ comments: “Creating space for active travel is creating space for everyone. It means that not having access to a car will no longer be a barrier to getting around. From safe streets for children to get to school, to pavements free from inconsiderately pared vehicles that block the way for people in wheelchairs and parents with pushchairs, walking and cycling provision ensures everyone can enjoy the place they live and travel safely and easily to the places they want to go.
“I was pleased to see the response from the Government to the letter written by Mayor Jarvis and I about prioritising active travel in the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, but we need this money now so we can begin to make our roads pleasant places to be for those on foot or on bikes.”